As a small business owner, you wear many hats—marketing, accounting and running the daily operations of your company is time consuming.
Deciding which marketing channels are worth your valuable time (and money) can be difficult. The answer is different for everyone.
Yelp, Google, and Facebook, are all platforms that present customer reviews, and this presents a unique challenge. Do you ask for reviews on all three sites? Segment the kind of customers you ask for reviews on each? Disregard a platform all together?
Larger businesses tend to have such a large customer base that reviews on all three sites just happen and increase over time, but when you are a small business, you want to collect reviews and have an effective online presence. Which review site deserves your time and energy?
Let’s discuss differences and information that can help you to make a good decision on where to focus your marketing efforts.
Google Reviews: Fairly new to the review game, Google Local Search was launched in 2012.
Leaving a Google review is extremely easy. You may send customers a link to your Google review page by clicking on “write a review” and copy/pasting the link into the body of an email or web page. In addition, customers are able to leave a review as soon as they type your company name into a search engine (fantastic!).
In the past, Google reviews required the reviewer to have a Google+ account. Fortunately, this is no longer the case. (A google email account is still required, but a Google+ account is not.) This is paramount since overall review counts and score are top ranking factors in local search.
Plus, with Google reviews being directly linked to the search engine, it makes sense that reviews, or lack their of, will factor into rankings, particularly when talking about local SEO.
Lastly, Google doesn’t discourage asking your customers for reviews. You also have the ability to respond to negative reviews, which helps you stand up for your brand image in a direct way.
One of my clients, Eye to Eye in Derby, KS, has generated lots of business through Google reviews by requesting customer reviews via a link in automated emails sent to customers after each appointment.
Facebook Reviews: Facebook is a strong contender for several reasons. Facebook, by design, is for sharing opinions and information. Customer reviews for businesses are a natural extension of this. In addition to customer reviews, Facebook is also used for one-on-one communication with existing customers, increasing the quality of the reviews you receive. Facebook is widely used by people of all ages and demographics. People actually prefer to leave reviews on Facebook since they are already on the platform frequently (perhaps daily).
In September of 2016 Google began incorporating Facebook, Yelp, Groupon and OpenTable reviews into Google Reviews listings. (There may even be others I don’t yet know about.) Due to this fact, Facebook may be the most valuable review platform for smaller businesses that need to focus resources on one channel.
Yelp Reviews: The oldest of the review platforms in our discussion, Yelp has been around since 2004.
Yelp actively discourages its business users from asking for reviews. They also do not post all the reviews you receive. For businesses with a limited number of clients, this can be detrimental. They have an algorithm that determines which reviews appear, and in which order. Yelp favors users who have given a higher number of reviews. They also favor users with lots of photos and Yelp “friends”.
It can be difficult to build-up reviews in Yelp, but Google still takes Yelp reviews into account in search rankings. Number of reviews, ratings, and comments can make a difference in your SEO. Like Facebook reviews, Yelp reviews are also shown in your Google Business listing.
The Final Verdict?
This is a complex issue. All three sites have a positive effect on SEO.
If you are a small business with limited resources, and only have time for one, I recommend starting with Facebook and expanding to other platforms as your customer base grows. If you have time for two, or have a storefront or physical location, add a Google Business listing as soon as possible.
A google search is often the first way new customers search for services. If your goal is to gain foot traffic or customer walk-ins to a brick and mortar location, you should absolutely take the time to set up and claim your Google business listing. As you build reviews from other sites, they will automatically display on your Google listing, reinforcing customer trust.